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DaleyPerry.jpg  Guest article from Daley Perry

My job is to guide the alumni of the high school I work for during college and help them navigate the inevitable obstacles college students face. I am proud of the fact that the vast majority of our students are prepared for college academically. It is the myriad of other factors like jobs, financial strains, family responsibilities, etc. that sometimes come between them and their dream of a degree.  

My students who qualify for and receive DACA have fewer obstacles in their way (if only temporarily) and that could be the difference between finishing college and dropping out. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) means being able to drive to work, being able to drive to school, even being able to drop younger siblings off at school as well. DACA means being able to work a job to save money for college. DACA means being able to go to college and study with one less worry on their mind. The DACA program is vitally important to me because it gives my students the opportunity to do things like work and drive, essentially removing a barrier or two and lightening their load.

While attending the march to defend DACA a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing the stories of students very similar to those of my students. These are students who came here at a very young age and consider America their home. These young people, just like my students, are strong, kind, and extremely hard working, and simply want what their peers have- the chance to pursue their goals. DACA certainly does not solve all the issues they face, but it is an invaluable resource for my students and I want them to have any and all resources available to them to help them succeed.

My dream for my students is that they accomplish their dream of walking across that college graduation stage. And while I realize that a college degree will open doors for them professionally and financially, my even greater hope is that their degree will give them the opportunity to use their gifts and talents in big ways. When I think about my students, I think about the brilliant aspiring engineer, the fearless aspiring entrepreneur, the compassionate aspiring teacher, to name just a few. These are young people who will change their communities for the better because they already have.

Last September I attended the national conference for the National College Access Network (NCAN) in Detroit.  I sat in on a session specifically for college counselors and advisors working with undocumented students to discuss ways in which we can best support them during college. While the session provided many practical tips and strategies, it was what one of the presenters said about her own life that stood out to me the most and I think is just as relevant (if not more so) today than it was a year ago. As a DACA recipient and college graduate herself, she said, “no one can take your degree away from you.”  This stuck with me because despite all the obstacles and uncertainty my undocumented students face if they can earn their degree – that is something that can never be taken away from them. And DACA can help them get there.

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